Car crashes are the leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 20. But some months are more deadly than others. The period from Memorial Day to Labor Day at the close of summer is the most dangerous for teen drivers, a time when parents and teens alike should be hyper-vigilant about the risks on the road.
The National Safety Council (NSC) describes the summer months as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. In 2012, during these 100 days, nearly 1,000 people across the country died in accidents involving teen drivers. Over 500 of those fatalities were teens themselves.
In 2012, the last year for which there is official data, there were 159 fatalities in the state of Georgia involving teen drivers. Fifty-nine of those deaths were the young drivers themselves; 32 were passengers in their vehicles; 46 were occupants of other vehicles; and 22 were non-occupants. Though the NHTSA report doesn’t break down when these fatalities occurred, if trends hold true, many likely happened in the summer.
Teen drivers are at a higher risk of accidents. As a matter of fact, teen drivers have a crash rate three times the rate of older, more experienced drivers. Why are summer accidents so common for teens? There are several possibilities:
- Teens stay out later and are driving later in summer months.
- Summer driving is more recreational, as there is less driving back and forth to school.
- Warm weather and clear conditions could tempt teens to speed.
- Teen drivers are more likely to be out joyriding with teen passengers in summer months, and teen passengers increase the risk of an accident by “at least 44 percent”, according to the NSC.
- More drivers overall are on the roads during the summer.
This time period often includes graduation ceremonies, when teens are likely to be out celebrating and having a good time. Increased risk of intoxicated driving could be a factor.
The NHTSA says in 2012, 28 percent of teen drivers killed in car accidents had blood alcohol levels over .01, meaning they had been drinking. Another 24 percent had BACs of .08 or greater, the legal limit for adults to be considered intoxicated behind the wheel.
While the number of teens drinking and driving has dropped over the years (50 percent from 2003 to 2012), there is still room for improvement.
Teens buckle up less often than adults. In 2008, the rate of seat belt usage was lowest among those motorists from ages 16 to 24, according to the NHTSA. In 2009, 56 percent of people ages 16 to 20 involved in fatal car accidents were not wearing seat belts.
Teens who do not wear seat belts are at a higher risk of dying in car accidents.
During the 100 deadliest days, parents can help keep their children safe by setting firm rules about driving. Giving your teen a curfew, limiting the number of passengers (or forbidding them altogether), demanding safety belt use, and holding your teen accountable for safe driving—all of these can help reduce the risk of your young driver being involved in a serious and potentially fatal accident.
Teens often feel as if they are invincible. But when it comes right down to it, they are inexperienced drivers and far from invincible when on the roads.